Medical association proposes changes to MCAT for 2015

| News Editor

A series of proposed changes to the MCAT would add additional material to the test and make it longer than the current version.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the group in charge of the test, announced the suggested changes last week. The organization hopes to expand the material on the test to include behavioral and social sciences, and to update the test to reflect current scientific knowledge.

Administrators doubt that these changes will affect Washington University students.

Most current students will take the MCAT before the suggested 2015 implementation date.

According to Carolyn Herman, assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, future students should not have much difficulty adapting to the changes because students at the University are already encouraged to pursue a broad liberal-arts style of education.

“I suspect that students may make minor adjustments to the courses they choose based on the specific kinds of behavioral and social science topics that seem to be most relevant to the exam, but I do not think there will be a major change in the coursework that students pursue,” Herman said.

Some students doubt that incorporating additional material into the exam will serve a substantive purpose.

“The MCAT doesn’t really correlate to anything except for Board scores. Making it longer won’t make it any better,” said Matthew Durst, a junior majoring in Chemistry.

While the changes propose the elimination of the Writing Sample section, the addition of behavioral and social sciences will make the test 90 minutes longer—making the test last a total of seven hours.

Herman does not think that students’ performance on the test will suffer due to the changes.

“I don’t think it will affect Washington University students. Broad arrays of research confirm that all standardized testing is highly correlated, and we have a lot of students who’ve already done very well on standardized tests here,” Herman said.

Because the suggestions are still tentative, Herman says that it will be a couple years before the pre-health office needs to consider changing its advising system.

“I don’t think we have enough information on what the test would actually look like to be able to make specific coursework recommendations,” said Herman. “We will certainly keep our eye on the national conversation [but] it’s kind of much ado about nothing at this point.”

In addition to the changes to the exam, the AAMC committee also proposed the creation of an “admissions toolbox” to allow medical schools to look at applicants’ personal characteristics. The toolbox may involve increased personal essays, recommendations, or methods yet to be developed.

The suggested changes come as results of a three-year study on how to balance the testing of reasoning and knowledge in the natural sciences.

The last comprehensive review of the MCAT was done in 1990.

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